Say Székesfehérvár five times fast⏱

Lap 75: Sponsored by Hydrow

Hydrow is designed to transform the way you work out. Rowing works 86% of major muscle groups, compared with only 44% from cycling.That’s twice the benefit in half the time — core work is included! It’s a perfect low impact supplemental form of cross-training to add into your routine. Take the occasional day off from pounding out the miles on pavement to keep your body healthy, while still advancing your fitness. You’ll be glad you did come race day!

Olli bounces back 🇦🇺👊

The best thing about the 1500 for fans is also the worst thing about the 1500 for the athletes who race it — it can be a complete crapshoot. Something about the metric mile – the non-round number of laps? the tendency to get tactical? the near immediate brain collapse from lactic acid buildup? – makes for more frequent major upsets than in seemingly any other event. 

But Australia’s Olli Hoare winning the Commonwealth gold was not a lucky roll of the dice — remember when he ran 3:47.48 at the Oslo Dream Mile? Instead, it was Hoare missing the World Championship final entirely that was the fluke.

After a short couple of weeks, that disappointment was totally erased. As an outsider to the Friendly Games, it’s difficult to put into perspective just how meaningful this win is. So I’ll let the roaring crowd of 30,000 fans enthusiastically doing the wave and chugging beers at 11am do the explaining. C’mon now! It’d be ignorant for American fans to make a Revolutionary War joke and then pretend not to care.

Especially, when the twelfth finisher — last place — goes 3:35.72! Hoare ran 3:30.12 to out-kick the last two World Champions, and eight men ran personal bests. Some American 1500 runners are probably wishing that our independence from the Crown hadn’t been so acrimonious so that they could have been in a race of this caliber.

The main thing to appreciate about Olli is that he made no excuses after the World Championships. Perhaps that’s because he didn’t have one. It’s always a curious thing when an athlete has a bad race and can immediately turn around in an interview five minutes later and rattle off all the reasons why it went poorly. When that happens, it’s almost a guarantee that they had those cued up and ready before the gun went off.

In every 1500m race, there is an alternative universe where the finishing order is entirely different. But in the post-Rio world, the constant seems to be that if you want to win then you’ll have to run fast to do it.

Silesia Diamond League 💎🇵🇱

Welcome to Poland, Diamond League! Earlier in the year, the two meetings in China were canceled due to pandemic-related issues so Poland stepped up to host, despite the challenges presented in going up against the Commonwealth Games, where athletes from fifty-plus countries are currently preoccupied.

That said, let’s dive into one of the like, five topics that drive me to get on my soapbox each week: there are too many meets, generally too close together both geographically and also on the schedule. I think this would have been a great opportunity to host a Diamond League outside of Europe. Hear me out, but it could have made a lot of sense to have a meet somewhere in the United States following Worlds — which would have aligned with the big vision of promoting the sport in the biggest and most untapped market. Or perhaps on a new continent entirely!

The performances were mostly underwhelming, but that’s to be expected when performing with a post-Worlds hangover and before the fields are adequately hyped for Monaco. Here are a few of the bright spots, however:

  • Femke Bol won the 400m in 49.75 to take the Dutch national record back from Lieke Klaver, who broke it multiple times in Eugene. If we want to extrapolate some data, Sydney McLaughlin beat Bol by 1.59 seconds in the 400mH. Some crude extrapolation puts McLaughlin’s projected open 400 at 48.16 — well under the American Record. Just sayin’.

  • As always, Chase Ealey won. This time the World Champ bombed the shot 20.38m. She is now a perfect 9-for-9 outdoors.

  • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran 10.66 to win the 100m. More on that in a second. Trayvon Bromell won the men’s race in 9.95.

  • In a tight one, Ajee’ Wilson closed it down to win the 800m in 1:58.28 after Sage Hurta led 98% of the race.

  • In theory, Diribe Welteji beating Gudag Tsegay 3:56.91 to 3:58.18 may be a big upset on paper, but that’s likely because you aren’t super familiar with Welteji yet! We first met her just after her 16th birthday in 2018 when she won the U20 world title in 1:59.74. Although her progression has not been the most linear since, Welteji has had a great season and finished fourth in the 800 at the World Champs in 1:57.02.

  • Nothing helps in getting a professional contract like winning the Olympics and Worlds! Emmanuel Korir won the 800m in 1:45.72 and is now sponsored by Puma.

The Sir Walter Miler 🎩

My goal in writing this race summary is to not mention the time I won — oops! —  but to shine a light on what may be the best domestic mile showcase around. What started with some fans gathering to cheer on meet director Sandy Roberts in a sub-four attempt has grown into something truly special. Although our dear friend Sandy never quite made it under that magical barrier, the race has prided itself on being a place where athletes can come to do it themselves for the first time, while those up front can set a nice SB or PB and fly home with a generous novelty check.

While I agree that we should focus more on racing than time, the community miles, which aim to connect the attention of the general public with the elites’ exploits, are the appropriate venue to hype up these marks. Despite every high schooler having to now break four minutes to lock down a prom date, the average citizen doesn’t know how frequently it is done. Frankly, I don’t think we should tell them.

Although there are stars like this year’s winner, Yared Nuguse, who ran 3:53.34 on a humid night to set a new North Carolina state record, there are always slots in the limited field reserved for those on the cusp. This year, Nuguse led twelve men under, including four first-timers (Heppenstall, Michalski, Basten, and Allen). And similarly raucous celebrations are had for breaking the debatably equivalent 4:30 barrier.

That was no problem for Nikki Hiltz, who followed the coattails of Eleanor Fulton around the track at a blistering pace before dropping a 60ish last lap to run 4:21.89. Since relocating to Flagstaff, Hiltz has had a good year, and seems to have started to adjust to the altitude. This was a three-second PB — are they approaching the form they exhibited in 2019 when they made the World Champs final?

With 200m to go, Hiltz thought about the additional $2,000 that was going to be needed to shut down the roads for their Pride 5k and kicked it into high gear. The balanced budget was attained thanks to a $5,000 bonus for breaking the state soil record. Currently, that prize money is going to help pay for the event, but it shouldn’t have to — because you can help offset costs by signing up!

(What a perfectly seamless transition!)

In partnership with The Pride 5K

The Pride 5k is a run/walk organized by non-binary professional runner Nikki Hiltz. It raises money for the Trevor Project, an organization providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. Along with a virtual race option, the Pride 5k is hosting the first ever IN-PERSON Pride 5k in Flagstaff Arizona on Sunday, October 2, 2022! The race is $35 to register and all proceeds go to the Trevor Project!According to The Trevor Project, having just one accepting adult in an LGBTQ person’s life can reduce their risk of suicide by 40%. Whether you join us in person or run a 5k wherever you live, showing up to support queer people has the power to save lives.

Are you Hungary for more track? 🇭🇺

Boo bad track puns, but woohoo more track! 

The Continental Tour (one step below the Diamond League) made a stop in Székesfehérvár this week, and I’ve never been more grateful that this is a newsletter and not a podcast. Despite my inability to pronounce the town’s name and its under-100k population, the meet boasted what I’d consider a healthy crowd! Let’s call this a welcomed precursor to the Budapest 2023 games, which I have already verbally committed to covering in-person, along with hopefully plenty of you who regret not studying abroad during college, as well.

Though the meet’s venue was humble and at times even leaf-strewn, there was no shortage of stars present. Locked in what’s probably a two-way tie for the biggest name in Székesfehérvár was the fastest woman in the world, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the 100m in 10.67 (+1.3) on a track was a far cry from the state of the art one she ran on in Eugene.

With her 10.67 win here, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce now owns the six fastest times run in the world this year, but even more remarkably, nine of the top 23 fastest marks of all-time! I’m not sure what was a bigger get — that Fraser-Pryce joined the CITIUS MAG crew for a lengthy chat at Worlds, or that she showed up here and ran as fast as she did. Either way, we don’t deserve her.

Combine that with the sport’s other massive star, Sydney McLaughlin, and all of a sudden this little meet had enough firepower to command a Monday afternoon crowd. She “only” ran 51.68, which, up until one year ago, would have been a world record. But McLaughlin, who now owns six of the top seven fastest times ever at the 400mH distance, has already spoiled us to where that time suddenly seems pedestrian. For the first half of the race, McLaughlin, who turned 23 earlier in the week, made the effort look like a jog in comparison to the showcase in Eugene.

Unfortunately, that might be it for McLaughlin this season. She was originally on the start list for the Monaco Diamond League, but now a scratch. I had quipped a week ago about the irony surrounding her world number two ranking despite her Olympic champion and WR status. But the truth is, what’s the point in her pursuing it at this point?

This isn’t a Sydney problem, it’s a sports problem. The incentives once you have guaranteed entry into next year’s global championship and millions of dollars to pair with it are relatively slim. At this point Sydney is considered the greatest to ever jump ten times over the course of a lap, and her family is set for generations. Why would she continue to race beyond the bare minimum?

While many athletes are begging for entry into the Monaco Diamond League for an opportunity to run fast or hit a contractual incentive, those at the very top of the game might actively avoid it. It’s especially complicated when fans will fill the stadium and tune in regardless of her presence — this is Monaco, after all. (The same can’t necessarily be said for a smaller meet like Székesfehérvár, though!) 

I am not mad at Sydney — it’s understandable. Do I wish we could force the world’s biggest stars to dance for us as we please? Sure! We love watching them. But in fairness, if you’re going to deliver an all-time performance every time you step onto the track, then you can do whatever you want. Just don’t try to do this if you’re running a couple of seconds slower!

Talking with the U20 800m World Champ 🇺🇸

The U20 World Championships in Colombia was the perfect way for Roisin Willis to end her high school career. Having run 2-flat on four occasions, Willis made the race honest early and pushed the field and herself as she won the title in 1:59.14. We caught up with Willis one last time as the bow is tied on an all-time great prep career.

I know you are in the car driving a few hours after a long flight from Colombia, but you’re returning home with two gold medals. How are you feeling after all of that? Especially with it being your first time in the USA kit!

It's been a whirlwind. The week has been absolutely insane, but definitely just feeling super grateful for Team USA. That whole experience was just a trip to remember.

After watching Worlds and seeing the athletes in the jerseys, and then to get to experience that on the U20 level was just very cool. Getting to wear the jersey and officially holding the flag was a memorable moment for me. I hope I can hold that flag again in the future — a definite goal.

The race itself was really interesting because you went out fast and then slammed on the brakes a little bit. Then most athletes don’t respond like that once getting passed with 150 meters to go. Was that how you envisioned it going?

My game plan in the final was to get out and I didn't expect to take the lead with such ease. I know the limit of my capabilities and that second 200, I just wanted to make sure I would have enough left. My coach says the last 300 is when the race starts, so anything before that is just trying to be comfortable.

I was surprised with 200 left — it definitely did throw me off guard and I think normally I would have lost that race. But in this situation, I just wanted it so bad that I was able to take it to a different level that last hundred meters with my strength. It’s definitely my most gutsy race ever. 

Were you thinking about that sub-two or just the win? I am sure that’s been on your mind a lot since last year.

Goal number one was to win, but watching the semis I knew it was going to be a fast day. I had my game plan to take it out hard, so I kind of just assumed they would come together.

Even older athletes would struggle to hold it together so long into the season after such a successful indoor season. How did you manage to have such longevity this year?

There were definitely hard points since I didn't take a break after my indoor season because I did the New Balance relay. I had my school season and that's a time when a lot of pressure is taken off. Then in late June, I was starting to get a bit tired, but I got COVID so I actually had to take a week off and reset.

I think the key for me was having all of July with no racing and just training. That helped me at Worlds because I had the training under my belt, but mentally I was recovered and ready to go. Also, I have good coaches who were watching out for me so that I didn't overdo it this season. I don't feel burnt out or anything. I feel like it kind of just ended at the right time. Ready to take a break, but I'm feeling good. 

I am sure there would be the opportunity to go pro if you wanted, but what is it about going to Stanford and running in the NCAA next year that you are most excited about?

First off, Coach Clark is the absolute perfect coach for me, and I'm just really excited to work together. Everyone he is connected with speaks so highly of him. I think that he's perfect for what I'm trying to do. But I'm also excited about being in the PAC-12 with so many good 400m runners to race against, but also in the 1500 and longer distances. I'm excited to be able to race all different types of events. And the team at Stanford having such a strong distance group is really going to help me improve in all areas.

It's sort of a joke for everyone to suggest that someone should move up in distance. But you brought it up! And since your mom was a great distance runner, do you ever see that in your future?

It's funny because going into high school, I was convinced that I was going to be a miler. But we just kept working on speed and my 400 has really come a long way. I didn't think I'd actually be this good at it. The 800 is what I'm focusing on and the 1500 requires a lot of strength — I don't see myself doing it for a long time.

Yeah, I think what you’re doing is working just fine! What did you end up splitting on the 4x400?

The official split was 51.34.

That's insane and after three races.

So is your relationship with Juliette (Whittaker) as special as it seems from the outside? To be at this level together the last couple of years and then heading to college together seems like a movie.

I don't think you can really have a friend as good as Juliette. Like, she's absolutely amazing. We were roommates the whole time in Colombia and I think we spent every single minute together. The only time we separated was when I was running the relay.

We are really supportive of each other and after the race she said all the right things and was so gracious. I think we both know how to be happy for each other. Obviously, there are days when the spotlight's on her and she's running great. And then some days, it's my turn. But I'm so excited to go to Stanford together to see what the future holds — we complement each other's strengths.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Speaking of fast kids packing their bags for Palo Alto, Newbury Park High School standouts Lex and Leo Young have committed to running at Stanford University.

  • Mathew Kimeli (28:39) and Fentaye Belayneh (32:07) won the Beach to Beacon 10k road race in Maine. Kimeli got tangled up in some yellow caution tape part way through the race, but his competitors were the ones in real danger! (I am sorry! Please do not unsubscribe over this joke!)

  • The BKLYN Mile was won by Jack Anstey (3:56) and Eleanor Fulton (4:28), who must’ve chartered a private flight from Raleigh to JFK to pull off this weekend double.

  • After his exciting 100, Botswana’s Lestile Tebogo fell just short of the double at the U20 Championships as both he and Israel’s Blessing Afrifah ran 19.96 for a photo finish in the 200. Afrifah entered the meet with a personal best of just 20.55!

  • Hoka Northern Arizona Elite announced the signings of Abby Nichols, Adriaan Wildschutt, Krissy Gear, and Olin Hacker.

  • Jacob Kiplimo won the Commonwealth 5000m in 13:08 to become the third Ugandan athlete to pull off the 5/10 double.

  • The Monaco Diamond League is today (Wednesday) and a must-watch (2-4pm ET)! Read the full CITIUS MAG preview here. But also just ruminate for a moment with me about how weird it would be if other sports had “games” of great importance soon after the conclusion of their major championship event. 

  • Scotland’s Laura Muir got to show the rest of the Commonwealth what she was all about with her 1500m victory in 4:02.75. She finished ahead of Northern Ireland’s Ciara Mageean, who missed Worlds because of Covid, and Australia’s Abby Caldwell, who wasn’t selected for Worlds due to a weird antiquated system in place down under.

  • Kenya’s Mary Moora won the Commonwealth Games in a rare tactic of going out extremely hard (26-low), fading, and then somehow resurrecting herself in the final 200 meters. This is even stranger and more impressive given that she came back on the great Keely Hodgkinson to win —1:57.07 to 1:57.40.

  • The New York City Marathon has released its men’s elite field and it includes: Albert Korir, Evans Chebet, GALEN RUPP, Shura Kitata, and a debut from Shadrack Kipchirchir.

Thank you to Hydrow for supporting this week’s newsletter! The machine has been an incredible supplement to my running as of late and it has worked my cardio fitness in a way that I did not previously know. If you’re enjoying The Lap Count, please feel free to share it with your friends and teammates — it is how we grow!